When I go home to Sydney to visit for Christmas my brother picks me up from the airport. I get a late flight and Mum doesn’t like to drive at night. She says her eyesight isn’t what it used to be and I guess that’s like a lot of things.
My brother drives through the back streets to avoid the tolls and we’re on this one stretch so long I think he’s lost his way. There are no streetlights and a lot of greenery so I know we’re far from home. We don’t talk much on the drive home. It’s like we’ve gotten to a point where we don’t really know what to say.
When we stop at some traffic lights someone on a motorbike careens past and we both turn and our gazes chase the figure into the darkness. I notice this instantly, the way we both turned at the sound, the sight, of the motorbike. I don’t know about my brother, but I find myself doing this often. He says it’s a nice bike and I agree, but what I don’t say is that when I see a motorbike I’m always thinking about our dad. Always thinking about him leaving again.
I sense when we’re close to home, not because of the scenery which – in the years I’ve been gone, has remained unchanged – but, by the people. The people here have this look about them, an unmistakeable indicator that I am home. My brother pulls up behind a Mercedes and the guy in the car next to us asks my brother about his car. He’s pretty into that stuff and I can tell because he’s smiling big like he’s proud and he doesn’t do that much anymore. The guy dares my brother to race ‘that shitbox’ in front of us and my brother laughs and revs his engine. I laugh too – not because it’s funny, but because I want to seem like I fit in too, with this family and these things they find so important.
My brother pulls into our driveway and says ‘it’s good to see you sis.’ I tell him the same and he tells me to say hi to mum for him. He doesn’t have time tonight; he has to get home to his family.
Mum says when my older brother is upset he drives down the coast and sits on the beach for hours. Sometimes he sleeps in his car overnight and drives back home in the morning. She tells me these things with such affection in her voice. Affection reserved only, for him.
She’s doing this thing that she does when she’s thinking too much about things that don’t really go together.
‘Dad would’ve kept your brother in line, if he was still around,’ she says and lights a cigarette. ‘Mum used to tell me that when Dad was upset he would drive out to the coast, get out of the car and scream his lungs out. That’s what your brother does. It’s weird,’ she says, and smiles a little.
My brother drives down the coast so often that I have to wonder if he has any sense at all, of what might be going wrong. It’s as if he thinks he can stand on the edge of waves and let his weight slip into the dark, heavy water and pull back out to sea. I think about it too sometimes, the ease in which I could be pulled out, into nothing. But I don’t drive to the coast often.